The distressed screeches of thousands of Evan Peters fangirls could be heard all around the internet on Wednesday night within the first 5 minutes of what might be the most successful and quality character assassination this year. It was the big reveal on “American Horror Story”; something we have been waiting for since episode 1. The unveiling of just who impregnated Vivian with what may or may not be the spawn of satan. Our immediate answer just wasn’t as satisfying and shocking as the build up promised, unless you give points for being so obvious that it’s a misdirection.
Fan favorite Tate Langdon is a lot of things. An amnesic ghost, The son of the craziest women on FX, a serial killer, and now apparently, a mother fucker. Like literally. After seeing him in the Rubberman costume a few episodes back, one could have assumed at much. The most shocking part of the reveal was the creeping realization that Tate is now dating the daughter of the woman he raped. It’s clear that Ryan Murphy was going for style over substance here. He seems much more interested in making us uncomfortable rather than giving us a satisfying and well crafted story surrounding our notorious man in black. Instead, Murphy gave us baby fever. Why did Tate have sex with Vivian? Because Nora wants a baby, and he wanted to be a nice guy. Tate saw in Nora what was lacking in his own mother. An obsessive desire to nurture and love. His hated for his neglectful and abusive mother pushed him to seek a new parental figure to impress, and Nora was the closest to his ideal… The emergence of Rubberman first came about in 2010, during Chad & Pat’s time in the house. Chad was first starting to catch wind of Pat’s infidelities and unwillingness to adopt the child that they had been planning on. Desperate to save their relationship, Chad dips his toes into Pat’s fascination with S & M and buys a rubber bondage suit with the hopes of adapting to his needs. His plan backfires, causing a deeper rift between the two of them. Tate later discovers the suit in the trash, and uses it to kill the unhappy couple as penance for abandoning their plans to have a child. Moira helps him dispose of the bodies and set their deaths up as a murder suicide.
In present time, Hayden begins to make connections with several of the home’s inhabitants, including the still very unstable Nora. Unlike many of the other ghosts in the house, Hayden puts together her situation right away and swiftly learns the tricks and benefits of being a ghost. She also uses her powers of persuasion to rope Nora into torturing Vivian, promising her one of Viv’s two children as a prize. Together, the duo plays poltergeist, hiding themselves from sight as they crash, break, and move everything in sight. Okay, so it is mostly Hayden, and she loves every minute of it. The goal is to make Vivian appear insane and unfit to be a mother, and Hayden will pull no punches when it comes to ruining the life of the one person she seems to blame for all of her misfortune.
Vivian confides her fears to Moira, who takes pity on her and tells her the truth about the house (but not herself) She urges Vivian to leave the house while she still can. Vivian and Violet gather a few of their things and get in the car, when two spirits appear in the backseat. All of the ghosts in the house are now in an uproar instigated by Hayden, and enough of them have unresolved issues with the Harmon family’s presence to be fully under her control.
The next day, Violet and Tate are laying naked in her bed after a session of off screen deflowering. Violet entertains the idea of telling her mom the truth, but Tate objects, fearing that Violet will be mistaken for crazy and taken away from him. She is called down to settle a heated discussion between her parents about Vivian’s sanity and lies about the ghosts that she saw. Throwing her mother under the bus was enough to discredit her completely, and Vivian is taken back as she begins once again to question her sanity. Her lack of support makes her extra nervous and defensive.
Tate retires to the safety of the basement, when he is interrupted by Hayden mocking him and his feelings for Violet, and encouraging him to take action to prevent her from leaving. After the Rubberman realization, it’s beginning to get difficult to empathize with Tate, but on another level, there is still something sympathetic about him. He is easily to mold, mindlessly loyal, and emotionally unstable. Hurting people seems to be an accident rather than an actual act of malice, which is a stark contrast with Hayden’s love for suffering and revenge. Constance might actually be right about him being sensitive and good natured, and it is possible that he is naive to a fault, with the moral compass of an infant. This could be one of the side effects of his ghostly stupor, though it’s hard to tell with him right now, especially after getting some very serious on screen insight into his actions over the years.
So now you have an aggressively paranoid pregnant woman and house full of angry ghosts trying to ruin her life, half of which are completely oblivious to why they are doing it in the first place. It’s the dead of night and Hayden and a slightly apprehensive Tate are antagonizing Vivian, which causes her to accidentally take a shot at Ben. The police come, and Ben recommends that she is sent somewhere where she can get help. Her ramblings of a rubber suit rapist are enough to convince the police that she is unstable, and she is finally sent away.
“American Horror Story” is one of the best shows to come out of 2011, but Rubberman Left something to be desired. On one hand, the show went back to it’s roots, exploring the horror aspect of the show that it has proudly advertised since the beginning. The last few episodes have mainly been about the growth and history of the characters, giving us some healthy background and motivation for their actions. Rubberman was a swing in the opposite direction, molding the characters for a specific function based on the progression of the story. There was a lot more build up and creeping suspense than from episodes in the past. More sense of dread. For the first time in a long time, It actually feels like the Harmon family is in danger.
This would have been a great thing had it not been accompanied by some truly awkward character shifts. The Tate/Rubberman revelation was (as I said before) fairly uncreative, and the justifications surrounding it were even more so. Violet and Vivian were all over the place, and completely out of character even given the circumstances. This is a classic Murphy blunder, and one of my biggest fears for the show. He has a habit of changing his characters to fit the narrative of his story, surrendering their personality and character development for an immediate action and reaction. If you were watching “American Horror Story” for the thrills and chills, this episode was probably pretty appealing to you; but if you had any interest in the mechanics of the story itself, it’s hard not to come out of Rubberman feelings excessively underwhelmed.
Let’s count the plot holes:
- Hayden wants to get Vivian sent away to take her babies. If she is gone, how exactly are those babies going to end up in the house for her to take?
- If Violet hasn’t been to school for two weeks, why hasn’t her mom noticed and done something about it?
- The house is possessed. There are ghosts in the back seat of your car. Obviously, your best option is to run back to the house from which they came.
- After getting ambushed in the car, did Violet & Vivian just retreat to their rooms and not talk about what had just happened or something?